Washingtonpost.com's Chris Cillizza asserted that during a debate for Democratic presidential candidates, "Democrats were asked, 'Are your kids in public schools?' Well, most of them said, 'Yes, we believe very strongly in public schools. But no, our kids don't go to them.' " In fact, three of the candidates said their children currently attend or did attend public schools, two said their children attended both public and private schools, and two said their children currently attend or did attend private schools.
On the August 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, washingtonpost.com staff writer Chris Cillizza asserted, "There was a debate in New Hampshire, I believe. Democrats were asked, 'Are your kids in public schools?' Well, most of them said, 'Yes, we believe very strongly in public schools. But no, our kids don't go to them.' Well, the whole point is that we need kids like that to be going to public schools so that the schools get better." In fact, at the Democratic debate to which Cillizza was apparently referring -- the CNN/YouTube debate on July 23 in Charleston, South Carolina -- three of the candidates said their children currently attend or did attend public schools, two said their children attended both public and private schools, and two said their children currently attend or did attend private schools.
Cillizza made this false claim as a purported illustration that "politicians saying one thing and doing another isn't just a Republican thing." Host Chris Matthews had asked Cillizza about Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's statement that "[o]ne of the ways my sons are showing support for the nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I'd be a great president." Romney made the comment in response to a questioner who asked him how many of his five sons are serving in the military. Romney said, "The good news is that we have a volunteer army, and that's the way we're going to keep it." He added, "My sons are all adults, and they've made their decisions about their careers, and they've chosen not to serve in the military and active duty, and I respect their decision."
From the 5 p.m. ET hour of the August 9 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Chris, let's get back to you on this. And all the National Guardspeople, men and women who are over there, suck -- stuck over there for years in that war. You know, you could call it a volunteer commitment if you want, but really, it's a result of a national policy, a political policy of one political party that took us into that war and supports the war even now. And apparently, according to the president today, wants to keep us over there ad infinitum.
That's a decision he's made. That's a political, ideological cause, he put it today. We're in a war of ideology. Why shouldn't the ideologues, the American Enterprise Institute, and all the people that supported this war, why aren't they the ones fighting it? I don't get it. And they get a free ride on this.
CILLIZZA: I don't have an answer. I don't think they get a free ride, simply because we're having conversations like this. And I think that --
CILLIZZA: Well, I think that Romney has gotten a fair amount of negative publicity three or four days before the Iowa -- you know, the Ames straw poll, which he didn't want over this issue.
Let me just -- one other quick point, Chris. Politicians saying one thing and doing another isn't just a Republican thing. It's a different issue. But look at education. There was a debate in New Hampshire, I believe. Democrats were asked, "Are your kids in public schools?" Well, most of them said, "Yes, we believe very strongly in public schools. But no, our kids don't go to them." Well, the whole point is that we need kids like that to be going to public schools so that the schools get better. I mean, you know --
JOAN WALSH (Salon.com editor-in-chief): Chris, I really think there's no comparison. I -- you know, I've had this argument with friends. My daughter went first to public school for nine years. She goes to Catholic school now. I searched my soul about it. But there is just no comparison between sending people off to die while privately holding your five sons back, and then sending kids to private school. There's just absolutely --
CILLIZZA: Joan, Joan, holding your -- I don't want to get in a big argument with you, and I don't want to be a Romney defender, because I'm not.
WALSH: There's no comparison.
CILLIZZA: But I think "holding your five sons back" is a rhetorical device that I don't think is accurate. Because his five sons chose not to serve in the Army, that would be like saying my parents held me back from serving in the --
WALSH: It didn't sound like he encouraged them. It didn't sound like he felt like they ought to have gone. You know, I don't think that's a Romney family value, if you ask me.
From the July 23 Democratic debate:
QUESTION: Hey, I'm Mike Green from Lexington, South Carolina. And I was wanting to ask all the nominees whether they would send their kids to public school or private school.
ANDERSON COOPER (moderator): The question is public school or private school. We know, Senator [Hillary Rodham] Clinton [D-NY], you sent your daughter to private school.
[Former] Senator [John] Edwards [NC], [Sen. Barack] Obama [IL], and [Sen. Joseph] Biden [DE] also send your kids to private school.
Is that correct?
CLINTON: No, it's not correct.
COOPER: OK. There we go.
EDWARDS: I've had four children, and all of them have gone to public school. I've got two kids who are actually here with me in Charleston tonight, two kids, Emma Claire and Jack, just finished the third grade in public school in North Carolina, and Jack just finished the first grade in public school in North Carolina.
COOPER: Senator Clinton?
CLINTON: And Chelsea went to public schools, kindergarten through eighth grade, until we moved to Washington. And then I was advised -- and it was, unfortunately, good advice -- that if she were to go to a public school, the press would never leave her alone, because it's a public school. So I had to make a very difficult decision.
COOPER: Senator Obama?
CLINTON: But we were very pleased she was in public schools in Little Rock.
COOPER: Senator Obama?
OBAMA: My kids have gone to the University of Chicago Lab School, a private school, because I taught there, and it was five minutes from our house. So it was the best option for our kids.
But the fact is that there are some terrific public schools in Chicago that they could be going to. The problem is, is that we don't have good schools, public schools, for all kids.
A U.S. senator can get his kid into a terrific public school. That's not the question. The question is whether or not ordinary parents, who can't work the system, are able to get their kids into a decent school, and that's what I need to fight for and will fight for as president of the United States.
COOPER: I do want to ask this question of everyone.
BIDEN: My kids did go to private schools, because right after I got elected, my wife and daughter were killed. I had two sons who survived. My sister was the head of the history department. She was helping me raise my children at Wilmington Friends School.
When it came time to go to high school when they had come through their difficulties -- I'm a practicing Catholic -- it was very important to me they go to a Catholic school, and they went to a Catholic school.
My kids would not have gone to that school were it not for the fact that my wife and daughter were killed and my two children were under the care of my sister who drove them to school every morning.
COOPER: Congressman [Dennis] Kucinich [OH]?
KUCINICH: My daughter, Jackie, went to the Columbus public schools and got a great education. And I want to make sure that that commitment that sent her to public school is a commitment that will cause all American children to be able to go to great public schools.
COOPER: [Former] Senator [Mike] Gravel [AK]?
GRAVEL: My children went to public school and private school, and I'd recommend that we need a little bit of competition in our system of education. Right now, we have 30 percent of our children do not graduate from high school. That is abominable, and that's the problem of both parties.
COOPER: Senator [Chris] Dodd [CT]?
DODD: My daughter goes to the public school as a pre-school-kindergarten. But I want to come back to the No Child Left Behind.
I think remedying this -- and I understand the applause here -- accountability is very important. This is one country -- we've got to have the best prepared generation of Americans that we've ever produced in our educational system. No other issue, in my view, is as important as this one here.
And getting the No Child Left Behind law right is where we ought to focus our attention here so that we have resources coming back to our states. You measure growth in a child. You invest in failing schools. But I would not scrap it entirely. Accountability is very important in this country. We ought not to abandon that idea.
COOPER: Let's try to stay on the topic.